Saturday, September 30, 2017

Recipe: Vegetarian Pancit

 This recipe is one that I converted to vegetarian in 2009. Chicken Pancit was a favorite when my children were growing up.

When I was stationed on Guam, I learned to make a delicious dish called “Chicken Pancit.” Because I was a cook in the Air Force, the recipe I learned made enough for about 250 people. A few years later, while working for a trophy company in Massachusetts, I processed an invoice for a customer on Guam. I snuck a note in there asking for a smaller version of the recipe…and got it! This dish from the Philippines has been a favorite at my house and potlucks for years now. This is my newly created vegetarian version. No chickens.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 brick extra firm tofu, chopped into small pieces
Sea salt & black pepper to taste
3 large celery stalks, angle sliced
3 carrots, angle sliced
½ head cabbage, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp “poultry seasoning” (thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper & nutmeg)
1 pkg rice noodles (Bihon or Maifun)

Brown onion & garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Stir in tofu and brown for about 5 more minutes. Salt & pepper to taste. Add vegetables. Stir fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Add 2 cups vegetable broth. Stir in “poultry seasoning.” Bring to boil then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes. Open package of rice noodles and separate into halves (the noodles are dried together, usually in two pieces). Place noodles flat over top of vegetables. With a spoon, baste vegetables and broth over noodles. Add last cup of broth, wetting noodles. Bring back to a boil then turn down to simmer. Stir often as it simmers until all noodles are moist and hot. Disperse vegetables as evenly through the dish as possible. May be served with soy sauce, if desired.

Recipe: Simple Portabella Mushroom Stroganoff

This recipe is one I created in 2009, when I was a vegetarian.

This is a vegetarian alternative to beef stroganoff that I made up as I shopped. It is not vegan, however, as I used plain yogurt. The beef version that I learned to make uses sour cream. I thought yogurt was at least a little healthier. Here's what I ended up with:

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1 tbl olive oil
8 medium to large portabella caps, chopped into bite-size pieces
garlic powder, sea salt & black pepper to taste
Broth from 1 1/2 tbl "Better than Boullion" vegetarian base, dissolved in 1 quart of water
1 tbl cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 c. water
1 cup plain yogurt
1 16-ounce bag farfalle pasta or other non-egg pasta as preferred - cooked, drained & rinsed

Brown onions in olive oil until they begin to carmelize. Add mushroom caps and stir. Add garlic, sea salt & black pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring regularly for about 5 minutes. Stir in broth mixture. Bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Return to boil, then reduce to a simmer for a few minutes until thickened. Stir in yogurt just prior to serving. Serve over pasta.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Recipe: Cream Cheese Beef and Jalapeños

Sometimes ideas for dinner come to me at the strangest times. Like poetry, once in awhile dinner inspiration can arise in the reveries I enjoy while driving. That’s what happened with the recipe I’m going share today.

I had dropped Ian off at work and was heading toward the local Fry’s grocery store thinking about what to make with the steaks I thawed earlier in the day. I wasn’t in the mood for the old fried steak and baked potato combination that had been a go-to when I was feeling particularly carnivorous in the past.


I thought about stir-fry with rice, beef stroganoff, and Mom’s old “goodie steak” recipe with bell peppers and tomatoes, none of which struck my fancy.

I had a vision of the big cream cheese stuffed jalapeños wrapped with bacon that Fry’s stocks at the meat counter. I began to salivate a little. That was it! I decided I’d purchase a few of those, grab some kind of vegetable, and fry the steaks. No baked potato.

I know, it doesn’t sound like much of an inspiration, yet. Just wait.

Once I got to Fry’s, I picked up a few of the other things I needed and then headed to the meat counter. As I wove through the aisles avoiding the clutches of shoppers, I went over a list of things I had at home to work with. That’s when I remembered the bag of small jalapeños I had sitting on the counter. They were quite small, but maybe I could stuff them anyway.


At the meat counter, I ordered a pound of apple wood smoked bacon for upcoming breakfasts and eyed the giant, pre-stuffed peppers. It wouldn’t be as much work to just purchase them. They were a dollar a piece. I’d bought them in the past for 75 cents. On sale, they had been two for a dollar. Did I really want to spend a dollar for one pepper? The taste would be worth it. But, I thought, what about that bag of peppers at home? They weren’t going to last forever. That’s when I decided to forego the big peppers, turned the cart toward the dairy section, and picked up a package of cream cheese. Then, over in produce I picked up some mushrooms.


At home, I washed a handful of peppers and started slicing them in half. They were much too small to stuff. What would I do with them? I definitely wasn’t going to change my mind about using them. That’ when the inspiration came together. From salivating over a vision of spicy stuffed peppers in the car to standing over my wooden cutting board, a new recipe emerged.


I think I’ll just call it Cream Cheese Beef and Jalapeños. Try it – you’ll like it!

Cream Cheese Beef and Jalapeños

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 lb stew meat or steak, cut into small cubes
  • 4 – 6 slices of back, chopped into smaller pieces
  • 1 cup small Jalapeños or Serrano Peppers, cut in half longwise
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 – 6 large mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 3 cups cooked rice (optional)

Directions:

  • Heat oil in medium sized skillet on medium heat
  • Sauté onions, garlic, and peppers until soft
  • Add beef and fry until brown on all sides
  • Add bacon and fry a few minutes, stirring constantly
  • Stir in mushrooms
  • Turn heat down to low and cover.
  • Simmer until beef is tender, stirring frequently (add a little water if it starts to stick to pan)
  • When meat is tender enough for your taste, cut cream cheese into little squares and place all across the top of the meat. Use the entire package of cream cheese.
  • Replace lid and simmer for approximately 5 minutes.
  • Stir all ingredients together so cream cheese is distributed evenly.
Serve by itself or on top of cooked rice

Sadly, I didn't take a photo of this dish. It's probably okay, though. It isn't a pretty looking dish, but I promise you, this is a taste extravaganza!

We liked it, anyway!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Roulette: International Cuisine Family Experiment Number Two: It's Mixed Bag!

Sometime toward the end of last year, my family had another one of our international cooking nights, and I've been meaning to share that experience with you ever since that day. Sorry it's taken so long!



This time we decided that instead of choosing one style of food to taste, we would each choose one or two recipes from random areas around the world. Bill and I thought it might be fun to twirl the globe, close our eyes, and stop the spinning by pointing wherever we felt like landing. I landed in East Africa, somewhere around Uganda. I was fortunate, because by landing there, all I had to do was ask my brother, who is often in Uganda on TDY, for recipe suggestions. Bill blindly pointed his finger at Madagascar, and Ian went with a recipe inspired by the cuisine of Korea. The results were predictably delicious - good enough for me to post "That was delicious! Great blog coming!" on my Facebook page. In the interest of keeping the secret for this blog, I didn't post a list of what we made. Unfortunately, that means we've forgotten something. That is, we can't recall exactly what Bill made! So, we'll get back to that when we remember what it was and call it a lesson learned -- keep notes if you can't finish the project on time!

Here's what we do recall of that mid-September feast:

Ian's Offering:

Ian found a recipe on Emeril's recipe page called Korean-style Pork Wraps with Chili Sauce. Here's what he made:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 1/2 cups cooked jasmine rice
1 head Boston, bibb, or butter lettuce


Prepping to Marinate the Pork

Directions:

Wrap the pork tenderloin in several sheets of plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 40 minutes. (This is to make it easier to thinly slice, so make sure it doesn't freeze completely.)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, sugar, 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil, green onion, garlic, and ginger. Whisk together until the sugar dissolves.

Take the pork out of the freezer and unwrap on a clean cutting board. Slice the pork into thin strips, about 1/4 inch thick, 1/4 inch wide, and 21/2 inches long. Place the pork strips in the soy marinade, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the Sriracha hot chili sauce, the honey, and the remaining sesame oil. Stir to combine. Set aside.


Pork Ready to Serve
When the pork has marinated, take the bowl out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork from the marinade and carefully place in the skillet. (Be careful that the drippings don't splatter out of the pan.)

Cook the pork, stirring constantly with tongs or a wooden spoon, 4 to 5 minutes, until the pork is cooked through.

Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame seeds. To serve, spoon several tablespoons of rice into the center of a lettuce leaf, taco-style. Top with a few pork strips and drizzle with a few drops of the chili mixture.


Roll up and eat!



Result:

Oh! My goodness, was this delicious! While credit for the recipe belongs to Emeril Legasse, the cooking credit goes to my son. He made a great choice and did a fabulous job of preparing the food.

My Additions:

My brother Matt sent me two recipes from Uganda that he particularly loves. Rather than choose just one of them, I went ahead and made them both. One of them called for a spice mix called Royco Mchuzi Mix, which I was unable to find here. Fortunately, an internet search unearthed a list of ingredients which were easily accessible. I put all the loose spices into a jar and shook them up. Here's the recipe for "Royco Mchuzi Mix," as I found it:



1 tsp each of:

Cumin
Coriander
Turmeric
Garlic Powder
Cinnamon
Ground Ginger
Ground Fennel
Sugar
Salt
1 bullion cube (beef)

 The first recipe is a sort of beef stew called Beef Katogo. Here's the recipe:


Veggies for the Stew

Ingredients:
 
5 peeled fingers of matooke (super green bananas or plantain)

Boneless beef ¼ KG (2 LBS)
2 tomatoes
1 big red onion
Two spring onions
1 big bell/ green peppers
1 fresh clove of garlic
1 carrot
Two fresh spinach leaves
Coriander leaves (sometimes known as cilantro)
Cooking Oil
Rosemary
Mchuzi mix (In this case, Royco)
 
Instructions:

Heat up a pot and pour in some oil, wait till the oil heats up.


As the oil heats up, finely chop the carrots, onions, pepper and garlic. Chop the tomatoes too and place them on the side. You cut the veggies into small pieces depending on what style is easy for you to cut them into.


Pour the chopped vegetables into the pot and cook till they are brown.


Add the tomatoes, cover the pot and let them cook for three minutes.


Add finely chopped spinach


Add salt and mchuzi mix for taste then stir.

Add the beef with a little bit of water then cover the pot and let it cook for four minutes


Add a cup and a half of water.


Add the matooke and cover the pot. Let it cook for 10 minutes.


Turn the heat low and uncover the pot, let it simmer for three minutes and switch off the fire.



Steaming Beef Katogo
 
Beef Katogo Ready to Serve


Result:

Well, this one was a hoot! The original directions had the disclaimer that the number of "fingers of matook" depend on how many people you are cooking for "and in this case we are cooking for one." I took that literally, meaning one person, which means I tripled - yes, tripled - the recipe. I made enough of this for a very large family with a LOT of leftovers. I actually had to look up "fingers of matook," and even "super green bananas," because I wasn't sure if they were a specific type of banana. The internet information led me to thinking plantain would be the right choice. Plantain are more savory than bananas, so I thought it would work best with beef. Next time, after a post-experiment conference with my brother, I'm going to use the super green bananas. I suspect the consistency is a little lighter. Plantain worked very well, but I found them to be rather dense. The overall taste of this recipe was great, though. I love a good stew, and that's exactly what this is, a very good stew. 

The other Ugandan recipe is a simple spicy hot salad. It was a great side dish!

Kachumbari Salad:

Ingredients
 2 tomatoes diced
½ large red onion diced
1-2 jalapeños, seeded, diced 
1 medium cucumber diced
1-2 garlic minced
Juice from 1 lime
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Salt and black pepper to taste


Instructions


Combine ingredients; tomatoes, onion, cucumber, jalapeno, lime and herbs. Season with salt and pepper

The longer it sits, the hotter it gets.


Mmmmm! Spicy! Katchumbari Salad
Result:

Hot is definitely a good description of this salad. For those of us in the Southwest, though, it was a familiar flavor. We all enjoyed a little bit of this on the side with the savory stew and delicious pork wraps.

A Hint of Bill's Dessert

As I wrote earlier, we can't recall exactly what Bill made for dessert. That is, we don't remember the name. We do, however, know it was a scrumptious cake-like dessert made with flour, sugar, eggs, and coconut shaped into little balls and baked.

I recall that I wished he had made a larger batch so it would last longer!




 Oh! What a Meal!


Components for Dinner, Ready to Go!

My Plate, Ready to Eat

  A Taste of Things to Come:

There will be some addition posts coming soon, including a recipe I created last night that was a surprise success, a little bit about that autumn batch of mead, and some creative and healthy uses for turmeric. I'll try not to be gone so long this time! 


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Roulette: A Family Experience in International Gastronomic Delights Randomly Chosen: स्वादिष्ट भोजन svaadisht bhojan

svaadisht bhojan. This is Hindi for “delicious food.” At least, phonetically. The Sanskrit looks like: 

स्वादिष्ट भोजन

To hear how it sounds, click here: svaadisht bhojan

It’s a beautiful language and a beautiful gastronomic tradition. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of blogs about our home experiments in international cuisine. You are invited to come along on this journey.

How It Happened

It all started when my husband and I took a drive to try out a food establishment in Chandler, Arizona that he wanted me to try. Joe’s Farm Grille is a very American establishment – a hamburger joint, but with a twist. The Grille sits on a working farm. It has both indoor and outdoor seating (only for the strong and heat-resistant patron during August). We sat inside, with a view of the huge, 150 year old Tamarisk tree.

The view over a scrumptious Joe's Grille Fontina Burger
and Strawberry Lemonade
As we enjoyed an excellent meal, our conversation turned to international foods. That’s when he got the idea.

A few days before, my husband had downloaded a pretty cool app to his phone called Indian Recipes Offline. It has a list of recipes for various Indian dishes listed alphabetically. My husband took out his phone and we began scrolling through recipes. So many things sounded delicious based on the ingredients alone.

What if, he suggested, we each chose a recipe and we went to Lee Lee International Foods, got the ingredients, and next week we’d make the recipes as a family?

And so we did. We sat at the counter with our burgers and strawberry lemonade, making a list of ingredients for four different dishes, including dessert.

At Lee Lee, we wandered the aisles, quickly choosing the items we recognized and laboring over small print packages and “Googling” item names we didn’t understand.

In the Indian Foods aisle, we stopped more than one friendly man or sari-donned woman and asked for help. “Oh? capsicum? Well, that ‘s just bell peppers, especially the green ones,” explained one young woman shopping with a small child.

We had two recipes that called for capsicum.

A lovely older woman in a beautiful white and gold sari overheard me read a label. “Jaggery? I love jaggery!” She exclaimed, rather gushingly.

“What is it?” I asked just before I caught the English on the label. “I saw a lot of recipes that called for it on our list.”

She looked at me a little oddly when just as she said it was sugar, I noticed the label “pure cane sugar,” and read it aloud. “Oh!” I said, “I should have known.” I meant I should have known by the look of it. It was basically raw, unbleached sugar. Some was granulated and some was in a sort of block inside the packaging. We bought one of those. If we didn’t need it now, we might want it later.

That night when I picked up our young adult son, I invited him to join us. He could choose the course he wanted to make.

We were all very excited when Saturday rolled around, but we started cooking a little late. In the end, we ate our dinner in the late evening, and I have to say, it was worth both the effort and the wait.

Our kitchen is fairly large, but we don’t have much in the way of food prep space, so we decided to cook in turns.

I took my turn first. I had chosen to make the dessert and an appetizer. I thought I’d knock the dessert out quickly then move into the appetizer. I’d forgotten how long it took to make a one string sugar syrup! I hadn’t made one since the rose petal candies I made for Thanksgiving in the mid-nineties.

Once I realized how long it was going to take, I started the appetizer and worked on both at the same time.

My Dishes
 

Here’s what I made:

Almond Burfi

Ingredients: 2 cups ground almonds, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, ½ - 1 cup ghee, 2 cups milk powder

Instructions:
  • Make sugar syrup of one string consistency (There is definitely an assumption by the creators of the app that the cooks already have some knowledge of cooking. So, for those who don’t know: a one-string sugar syrup is made by adding equal amounts of sugar and water, then bringing them to a boil on a medium/low heat. Continue the boil for a few minutes then check consistency. The way I checked was to take a little of the syrup out with a wooden spoon and with my thumb and forefinger take a little off the spoon. Placing thumb and forefinger together, bring them slowly apart and watch what happens to the syrup. If nothing happens, continue boiling on low heat. It is “one string” when a thin line forms between the thumb and forefinger.)
  • When the syrup is ready, add the almonds and milk powder (I used plain old powdered milk like we used to hate as children. I don’t know if this is exactly what the recipe intended, but I had some on hand).
  • Once the powder and almonds are mixed into the syrup, add ghee a little at a time while stirring.
  • Continue to cook over the low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mix begins to come away from the sides of the pan when you stir.
  • Pour onto a greased cookie sheet or plate (with sides).
  • Let it sit awhile in to set before cutting into shapes. I refrigerated mine for a little while then just cut it into squares like fudge.
Almond Burfi, cut like fudge (I can't cut straight for the life of me, apparently!)
Notes: I only found whole shelled almonds at the store, so I ground the almonds in my blender. It worked perfectly. Because the recipe didn’t specify what type of sugar to use, I started with white sugar, but added some jaggery later when I realized that was probably what was meant. I think it did add a little different flavor that it would have had otherwise. Be careful not to burn your fingers!

Capsicum Prawns Canapes

Ingredients: 4 good size prawns, 1 chopped onion, 2 capsicum (green bell peppers) cleaned and quartered, 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp butter, a few fresh parsley, chopped, salt & pepper to taste
  • Instructions:
  • Melt butter in a skillet.
  • Add prawns, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook until prawns are done (they should be pink all the way through), then set them aside in a bowl.
  • Fry the bell peppers (capsicum), and place on a plate like little cups.
  • Mix onion, tomato, and mayonnaise in a bowl
  • Spoon mayo mix into the bell peppers, then place a prawn on top of each one


Capsicum Prawns Canapés
 
Note: This is absolutely delicious! I actually wish I had doubled the recipe. I could have made this into a main dish with a few more.

When my two dishes were done, I set the canapés in the oven at 200 degrees F to keep them warm while the guys made their courses. My son Ian was next in the kitchen. I helped him a little with food prep, but he did the cooking. I was working so much when my kids were small, we didn’t have a lot of time for me to take them in hand and teach cooking skills. It’s a little regret, but not one that can’t be fixed. If you can read and tell time (or set a timer), it’s possible to learn to cook all by yourself.

Ian's Dish

Ian made a main dish called Capsicum Curry with Potato.

Ingredients: 2 tbsp oil, 2 – 3 sliced capsicum (green bell pepper), 1 potato, chopped, 1 onion chopped, onion paste (in addition to chopped onion), 2 tomatoes, paste, 3 green chilies, chopped, 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 3 whole cloves, 1 bay leave, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 2 tbsp cashew paste, a few chopped coriander leaves (cilantro), 2 cups water, salt to taste

Instructions:

  • Heat oil in pan
  • Fry green peppers (capsicum), then drain and set aside
  • Add a little more oil if necessary, then fry cumin seeds, cloves, bay leaf, onion, and green chilies
  • Add onion paste, ginger-garlic paste, and tomato paste. Add potato and fry well
  • Add coriander, cumin, chili powder, and turmeric.
  • Add salt and water, cover and simmer about 20 minutes
  • Add cashew paste, bring to a boil.
  • Add capsicum (bell pepper) and coriander leaves
  • Serve hot with chappathi or other flat bread

    Frying ingredients for Capsicum Curry with Potato
    Capsicum Curry with Potato ready to serve
Notes: because we could not find onion paste, we made it by chopping the onion and placing in the blender, then hitting “puree” for a few moments. We did the same with the tomatoes. We also could not find cashew paste or even chopped or whole cashews in the stores (we searched Lee Lee and Fry’s), so we used peanut butter as a substitute. For the chopped green chilies, we used some hatch chilies that had already been cleaned, blanched, frozen, and thawed for this purpose. Finally, the original recipe called for using a pressure cooker. It seems that pressure cookers are staple appliances in India. I don’t have one, so we improvised by using a large frying pan with a tight fitting lid. This seemed to work fine, and the meal was fabulous. I don’t know if the pressure cooker would have created a different consistency or not. If you have a pressure cooker, then where I have “simmer for 20 minutes,” the pressure cooker instructions say “for two whistles.” In today’s newer pressure cookers, that would mean about 10 minutes.

We put this dish into an oven safe bowl and set it in the oven to stay warm while my husband Bill made his dish.

Bill's Dish

Bill’s dish was called Beetroot Lentils Curry

Ingredients: 1 cup beetroot chopped and cooked in salt water, ½ cup yellow lentils cooked in salt water, 3 cloves garlic, ½ cup grated coconut, ½ tsp chili powder, ½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp split Bengal gram (chana dal), 3 dry red chilies, 2 sprigs of curry leaves, water, oil, salt as required

Instructions:

  • Grind coconut and garlic to a fine paste with a little water, set aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan and sprinkle in the mustard seeds.
  • Add split Bengal gram, dry red chilies, and curry leaves.
  • Toss in cooked lentils and cooked beetroot, mix well.
  • Pour in the coconut paste and a little water. Cover and cook on low for 10 minutes.
  • Serve hot with chappathi or other flat bread.

 
Chopping the coconut for Beetroot Lentils and Curry


Spices gathered for Beetroot Lentils and Curry

Isn't this pretty? The spices and Bengal gram all ready
to be added to the Beetroot Lentils

The final product! Beetroot Lentils and Curry

Notes: fresh whole beets were a little pricey in the produce section, so we bought a can of chopped Harvard beets, which worked just fine. The dry red chilies were Serrano peppers from our own garden.

Eating It Was the Best Part

Once all the courses were ready, we set them out on the counter, and we each took personal portions of everything. This meal was really good, and the Almond Burfi was a perfect ending. This fudge-like candy is not too sweet in spite of having sugar syrup as a base. The recipe would be easy to modify, to use different nuts or even some other flavor for those who are allergic to nuts – or just for variety.

It’s possible that if we had researched a little more and found out what capsicum was before deciding, we might have shifted one of the green bell pepper recipes to something else. However, we had decided we would just pick something and go with it.

The experiment of group cooking went well. While we didn’t all occupy the kitchen at once, it was satisfying to know that we were still working cooperatively. The meal had a special atmosphere because of it.

As I said earlier, we ate late – almost 10 p.m. For Americans, that’s a pretty late supper --


It was worth it! The next day, Ian and I took some of everything over to my dad, who thought it was all tasty. Coming from a retired chef, I'm taking that as a compliment!

Here's our meal, all set out for serving buffet style.
We added Korean Salted Duck Eggs and used Naan as our flatbread.

What's Next?

For next time, we have each chosen a course. I will be making two side dishes, Ian a main course, and Bill is doing dessert. Instead of a specific cuisine, though, we are each going to find a recipe from a country our own choice. None of us know what we’re doing yet, but we shop in a couple days.

This is going to be fun!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Blog: Here I Go Again!

Well, here it is. The truth. The cold, hard, fatty truth.

I've been pigging out. I can't figure out why I'm eating all the carbs and sugars that enter my sphere of awareness, but I do know chocolate has something to do with it. That's it, I'll blame the chocolate. Forget about this strange addictive behavior I've been exhibiting.

Oddly, since I got the most awesome Dansko shoes, even my hip feels better. I haven't told my surgeon yet, but I think I can put off that hip replacement until I'm actually old. I've been taking the stairs at the hospital where I do my internship - even up to the fourth floor. Those of you who know hospitals know that means a double flight for every floor.

I'd probably be getting closer to my weight loss goal if I weren't eating all the things.

So. I decided to go back to the site that helped me track calories the last time I did this thing. There are a few decent sites that track calories. The first time I lost about fifty pounds just by counting calories, I used CalorieCounter. When I was doing those awful/awesome boot camp exercises with Andrea & David Gough at DNA Mind-Body & Nutrition and Herbalife, I switched to MyFitnessPal. 

I decided to stay with MyFitnessPal, while tracking my steps and calories burned by walking through a little phone app called Google Fit. I don't think the two are compatible, but I know how to take the information from one and enter it into the other. Who knows, I might burn extra calories just doing that by hand!

So here I am. Telling all the people on the internets (well, at least the handful who might read this) that I have been failing, but I intend to win. I intend to get back on track and reach my goal. That might mean some new recipes!

Certainly, it might mean a few photos and new thoughts on this journey.

Funny, it seems like we not only change direction in our life's journey, but we also travel many journeys side by side. My health journey and my spiritual journey are definitely connected. I wonder if it's the same with the career journey, and the trajectory of my whole life.

One thing I've discovered is that it's better to acknowledge where I am chronologically along the way. I'm no longer the 20-something who religiously did aerobics with Jane Fonda, ran 3 miles a day, or road my bicycle 5 miles a day. I'm an "older adult." My needs are different today than they were then. I found a page on a government website that spells out the caloric needs of older adults

I don't need 1200 calories per day...I need 1600! This is more doable. I put my goal in as 1500. I think this knowledge will help me on my journey.

I know it's a holistic thing. Body, Mind, and Spirit. 

You can follow my weight loss successes - and failures as I go. Just look for the MyFitnessPal badge on the right side of the page. When I last posted to MyFitnessPal, I had lost 38 pounds.

So...here I go again!

P.S. I forgot to tell you the GOOD news! Yesterday, I was able to begin my yoga practice again! I got through a full Sun Salutation without any wrist pain. That and 50 crunches both yesterday and today are my start back into the world of exercise and mindfulness around my physical being. More to come!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Blog: Almost Static

So, I lost weight and maintained that loss for awhile, what with the yummy smoothies, healthier eating, and regular exercise. It was great and I was feeling fabulous.

It isn't that I'm not feeling fabulous now; but it's a just little iffy.


Schedules got a little messed up, I lost yoga and hula-hoop time. I let the diet slip. I reignited an addiction to sugar. Chocolate. Diet soda.


And, I developed carpal-tunnel problems. A billion years of secretarial work have finally caught up with me. I can't do a proper Sun-Salutation anymore because I can't bear the weight on my wrist.


Of course, all along, I've had some other issues. I don't know, have I complained to you about my fibromyalgia lately?


It's not the fibro that's a problem so much as the spondylolesthesis in my L-1 and the arthritic degeneration in my right hip.

The exercise - especially yoga - and weight loss were calculated to make it easier to live with these problems. Combined with some medication, it's been pretty good.


Pretty good, but not great.

I haven't been able to hike for years. I'm jealous of all those 65 - 85 year olds I know who make hiking the Superstition Mountains look like strolling down the lane.

It's all catching up with me. This Spoonie life. This aging process.


I began to gain back some of the weight. 


I'm going to have to have surgery on my hip. A new hip, in fact. Just like an old lady, right?


I've begun forcing myself to take the stairs when I'm on shift at the hospital where I'm doing my chaplaincy internship. I'm equally forcing myself to recognize when enough is enough and the elevator is a better choice.


I'm starting to figure out which yoga poses I am able to do and to find times to sneak them in between my over-scheduled times.


I got one of those padded mouse pads and a wrist rest at work and have been trying to wear a wrist brace when I drive to nip that carpal tunnel in the bud. 


I'm off the candy and diet soda now, and am reintroducing good, green food into my diet. Not that I stopped eating good, green food. I just ate a whole lot of other stuff for awhile there, too.


I'm back to salads and smoothies.


Someday, I'll be back to real exercise, too.


After the new hip.


In the meantime, I am almost static.

But not completely.


I will never allow myself to reach the weight I was at my heaviest. My most unhealthy.


I may not be a rolling stone, but neither will I be gathering any moss.


Unless it tastes good in a salad.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Smoothie

The last time I picked up some frozen fruit, I saw the rhubarb and knew that I was going to get them as soon as I could. Since rhubarb needs another fruit with it, I decided to go with the traditional strawberries, because after all, strawberry rhubarb pie is probably my favorite.  I made enough for both breakfast and lunch. Here's what I tossed together:



Strawberry Rhubarb Smoothie

1/2 cup frozen rhubarb
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Cold water to the 2 cup line on blender container
1 banana
Stevia or other sweetener to taste (optional)


Using frozen fruit negates the need for ice, so the fruit flavor doesn't get watered down. I added the banana because it makes the smoothie a bit thicker without adding too much extra flavor.

Keep in mind that my measurements are almost always estimated - I have tendency to toss things in by handfuls and pinches rather than using measuring cups. I let the ingredients blend until they look smooth, then stop the blender for a taste test. (After my experience with the wooden spoon a few weeks ago, I am very careful not to lose a utensil in a moving blender blade!)

Sometimes, after a taste test, I'll add a little more fruit or a touch more sweetener. In the end, the amount of ingredients you use in your smoothie is up to you.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Recipe: Apple Butter & Fruit Green Tea Smoothie

I haven't posted a smoothie recipe for awhile. Lately, I've been using blackberry green tea as the liquid base in my smoothies, rather than water. The tea is delicious. Unfortunately, not all combinations of fruits and vegetables are delicious. I've tried a few ideas that were good, but not delicious enough to share.

Today, though - today I created one that I think some of you might like. It's thick, smooth, and filling. Here's what you need:

3/4 cup crushed ice
1 Large leaf kale, chopped
1 - 2 Small leaves lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup apple butter
1/4 block tofu (by the way, I tend to use firm, but any consistency works)
1 cup cold blackberry green tea (or any flavor tea you'd prefer, of course)
1/2 cup frozen fruit (in this case, I had a banana/strawberry/mango mix)
Stevia to taste, if desired

I'm finding it easier to get the kale and lettuce blended smoothly if I chop it very, very finely, put it into the blender with the ice and some of the tea, then blend for awhile. 

When it looks like the tiny pieces of leaf are mixed in pretty well, stop the blender and add the apple butter, tofu, and the rest of the tea. Blend until it has a smooth, consistent color throughout. Add the fruit, a couple of pieces at a time. You may need to stop the blender, put in some fruit, and put the lid back on before starting to blend so the mixture doesn't pop out at you and make a mess. When all the fruit has been blended in, add Stevia or other sweetener, if desired. This has a pretty sweet flavor without the added Stevia, actually.

The apple butter gives this a nice, refreshing flavor and a thickness that isn't always easily achieved. This recipe made enough for my lunch. I put it in the refrigerator at work, and when I finally got to it, the smoothie was just as thick and delicious as it was when I taste tested it this morning.

Everything with Kale is Green: Apple Butter & Fruit Smoothie at My Desk



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Recipe: Chocolate-Berry Lollipop Smoothie

A delicious lunch on the job!
Today is Tuesday. Tuesday is what I call "weight day." It's the day my workout consists of a yoga warm up, 15 minutes of exercises using weights, accompanied by some 80's metal, and followed by a yoga cool down. I love weight day, almost as much as I love yoga/hula-hoop day and martial arts moves day. When I'm done with the work out, I feel like I've DONE something!

So, today, after my work out, I felt like making a great shake. Yesterday, I made a cantaloupe shake that just didn't cut the mustard, as the saying goes. It was okay, but not great, not delicious. Today's shake is delicious. The taste is suggestive of a certain lollipop that I loved when I was growing up.


Here's the skinny:

2 cups ice
2 large leaves of kale, chopped
1/2 cup lettuce, chopped
1/4 block tofu
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1 cup water
1 banana
Stevia to taste (optional)*
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup (or more, for a deeper chocolate flavor)

Blend it all up, and when it's smooth, pour it into your containers. As usual, I had two containers. I sucked one up for breakfast. When I got to work, I put the second one into the fridge until lunch.

Just one thing - if you use a wooden spoon to mix in the fruit, don't put it too far into the mix! If you aren't careful, you might end up with wood chips in your shake, like I did! For the record, I poured it all out into a bowl, sifted through and got out all the pieces of spoon I could find. Then I poured it all back into the blender and blended the you-know-what out of it.

Yum!

*Edited 8/26/3015 to add Stevia